(Note: I decided to combine both into one post since this is my first crack at writing these. I will be more diligent to write a report for each individual race moving forward.)
My goal for 2014 was to get my Racer’s license so I could race for the AFM, even if I was only able to race the last race of the season. Fortunately, I was able to race two races, one at Sonoma and one at Thunderhill. My goals while racing was simply to finish every race I entered, which I did.
For 2015, I’ve added more to my list of goals. The first being the same as the one I set last year, to finish all my races (no crashing). The second goal I set for myself is obtaining a podium position, specifically from racing Afemme, the only all-women’s class in AFM. Third, is to have one of the three spots for the Novice Afemme championship. My final (and most important) goal is to continually improve—drop lap times and just become a better racer overall.
Round two for 2015 was at Sonoma this year (it was on May 2-3). I was a bit more nervous this time around since I haven’t been to Sonoma since August of 2014 and didn’t know the track as well I should have. Either way, I didn’t let that deter me and was determined to maintained focus on dropping some speed from my personal best from last year.
Practice on Saturday went okay—I managed to shed about 3 seconds, but it was not where I wanted to be. I also looked at the grid for Afemme and saw that I would be contending with two gals on 600cc bikes, and two on Ninja 300s. Then there was me, the only one on the smallest cc bike—a Ninja 250.
Even though I was a tad frustrated with my times, it appeared that I was putting down faster times than the women on the 300s. I was very hopeful that I could get 3rd place and snag my first podium at my first race of 2015. However, the stars weren’t aligned for me on that day, and due to multiple stops/breaks in the day due to races being red flagged. Afemme (the last race on that Saturday), was pushed back to being the first race on Sunday morning, and this, in turn, resulted in one more gal entering the race last minute. She ended up getting first place, and the two other women on the 600s got 2nd and 3rd. I came in 4th place, ahead of the other two gals on the 300s. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get a podium spot, but I knew I had more racing ahead so I couldn’t dwell.
My next race was Novice 500 Twins. I went in with a plan of getting my time down by working on a two corners I was struggling with. This produced a great result: I dropped a total of six seconds from my personal best at Sonoma. I was incredibly excited about this! I went into the Novice 250 Production race with the same mindset (working on those two corners) and had a fun battle with another gal on a Ninja 250. It was a fun race.
Now to move onto Thunderhill for round 3 which happened on May 30th and 31st. I was feeling even more frustrated during practice on Saturday because I really wanted to drop a significant amount of time at this track. I was trying to work on specific corners, but I couldn’t 100 percent commit to, say, staying on the throttle longer when tipping into a corner or breaking too early too soon and coasting into another. I really needed a fire to be lit under my ass.
I got incredibly lucky that Saturday too. Ken Hill, primary instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, popped over to where I was pitted. I’ve worked with Ken before on both asphalt tracks and on a dirt track. His teachings are invaluable and I’ve improved so much as a rider because of him. I told him I had trouble keeping my eyes up—mainly having a tough time staying focused. He gave me a drill via sheet of paper: He drew five dots on the page and told me to connect them using my eyes and to make sure to not move my head. He also told me to make sure to do this right before I got on the bike. I did just that.
As before, Afemme was the last race on Saturday. The grid was very small for this grid, as there were only 4 of us—three gals on bigger bikes and me, the only one on the little one. I got an incredible launch off the grid line and was ahead of the woman on a GSXR-750, but alas she caught me going into turn 11 and used the bikes horsepower to leave me in the dust on the straight. Again, I didn’t let this deter me as I wanted to put down a good time and finish the race, which I did. I was able to shed about seven seconds from my personal best and I also got 3rd place due to one of the gals not finishing the race due to a mechanical on her bike. I was so stoked I got a trophy!
Sunday came quickly and I had my two races that day: Novice 250 Production and 500 Twins. I wanted to still drop some time. All I could really do at that point was to put myself mentally in the game by doing my “connect the dot” exercises Ken provided. I did that until hoping on my bike to race 250 Prod.
I got on the grid and once the green flag dropped, I got an awesome launch. My focus was on point and I was determined to work on the corners I was struggling with. I was determined to coast less, brake less and throttle out more. The race was red flagged after getting one lap in, so we had a complete re-start. I maintained my focus during the restart (even though the launch wasn’t as good), and came off the track with a huge smile on my face. I was giddy and thought it was a fun race, and no matter my times, it was okay because I enjoyed myself.
Well, the enjoyment translated to my time dropping: 10 seconds off my personal best. I was beyond ecstatic and couldn’t believe I was able to shave off that much time. Doing this proved that I’m capable of doing anything I put my mind to.
The Novice 500 Twins race wasn’t as strong as the 250 Prod race, but what I saw was that I was consistent when it came to my lap times. Before (last year), my lap times would peak at the second lap and then drop significantly because I got tired so quickly. This time, however, I was able to maintain my speed and get consistent laps. Round 3 at Thunderhill was a huge success.
We have a short break before round 4, which is also at Thunderhill. I’m looking to shed even more time (ideally, about 5 more seconds) and get another podium. I will be doing a few track days there before round 4 so I can continually work on “connecting the dots” and maintaining focus.
I would like to thank my sponsors: Suomy USA helmets, Axo Racing, and Spy Optics: You guys Rock! I also would like to thank Greg Sharp, Ken Hill, Zoom Zoom trackdays, and all the AFM staff and corner workers, you also rock!
(Professional photos provided by OXYmoron Photography)